One of the things that come with living on a farm is the presence of rats. Let me clarify this before my New York City readers faint in horror -- these are not the giant, aggressive rats of urban legend, who bully Rottweilers and carry switchblades. These are brown rats (Rattus norvegicus), smaller, a bit timid, the close cousins of the "fancy rats" that are kept as pets. If you live in the country and have a barn, especially if you have grain in it, you will have some rats. This is why most farmers keep barn cats.
Last summer, after we'd gotten the sheep and started storing grain, we began noticing a few rats in the barn. If we came upon them suddenly, we could occasionally catch them perched on the edge of the water tub, leaning in and drinking. It was cute -- like a rat bar. Think of Charlotte's Web and Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM . Those kind of rats. I immediately named them Templeton, Nicodemus, and Rizzo.
Most people shudder at the thought of a rat, but let me confess -- I really like rats. They have bright button eyes and inquisitive noses and whiskers. They are intelligent, affectionate, and social. They are also altruistic, not only to other rats, but they have given their lives for hundreds of years in the name of medical research. I think they are cool. (I know they harbor diseases, but so do lots of animals, including humans.) If I didn't have six cats, I might have one or two as pets.
The problem is, as I soon discovered, if you see one rat, you have three; if you see three, you probably have more than even a rat-lover would feel comfortable cohabiting with. They are kind of like people that way.